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ClientEarth Communications

18th July 2017

Rule of law
Access to Justice for a Greener Europe

EU Council rebuff Commission in access to justice case

The EU Council of Ministers has dismissed a proposal by the Commission to reject a UN committee’s finding that it is breaching international law.

In March, the UN Aarhus committee found that the EU is breaching the Aarhus Convention by preventing the public from challenging the EU institutions’ environmental decisions in court.

The Commission’s proposal to reject this finding would have been the biggest scandal since the Aarhus Convention was adopted in 1998.

ClientEarth lawyer Anais Berthier said: “Today’s vote was crucial in the battle for the EU to adopt real access to justice laws. The Commission’s original proposal risked setting back almost two decades of progress on environmental democracy in Europe.”

“The Council of Ministers have voted to “take note” of the UN committee’s findings, accepting that the EU is breaching international law.

“The decisions of the EU institutions have a major impact on everyday life, from the air we breathe to the chemicals allowed in our food and products. The EU must now ensure they are accountable to the people they serve.”

Since it was established in 2002, no state has ever rejected a finding of the Committee - including the EU and the member states.

At present, businesses can defend their economic interests in the EU courts but people and NGOs cannot challenge health or environment decisions in the public interest.

  • Commission publishes guidance on access to justice for member states
  • Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention rules EU in breach of Access to Justice